This is a guest post.
Negotiating can be a nerve-wracking process. Whether it’s with a future or current employee, potential client, or new partnership, approaching a situation that involves asking for what you want—especially when the other party also has wants and needs––isn’t easy.
However, by definition, negotiating is a “discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.” While it’s an important process, approaching negotiation in this simple way can help alleviate the pressure that comes with the process.
To further demystify the art of negotiation, we tapped into the Dreamers & Doers collective to get the inside scoop on their best hacks. The insights from these 17 entrepreneurial women are an encouraging reminder that changing your mindset around negotiating can open new doors and eliminate roadblocks.
Founder of The Female Founders Lab, a global, virtual support and capital ecosystem for venture ideas.
My Negotiation Hack: I always decide what I want to create in detail beforehand. I stay very solid in this, and I call it my “container.” Once the container is set, I know how much I’m willing to compromise on my vision. Then I find the person who will fulfill my container’s defined boundaries.
My Advice: Know exactly what you require, in what time frame, and decide that the universe will deliver this any which way. Don’t waver from what you need out of scarcity or fear that you won’t get it.
Founder of ABLE, an organization that creates community driven, digital infrastructure for connected supply chains.
My Negotiation Hack: We’re in the very early stages of our platform, and the partners we’ve taken on are those willing to get their hands dirty in the amorphous process of building something that isn’t yet defined. I’ve tried to set up negotiations as invitations, and sought to become a student of our potential partners. Often this approach is more about access to shared knowledge than it is about something like equity.
My Advice: I’ve found it helpful to create personas as a way to approach negotiations. The kinds of questions that can be helpful include: What does this person need? What are this person’s fears? What does success look like for them? What’s a loss? All of these things feed into understanding how to approach them as a whole person who you’re inviting into a shared container of collaboration, instead of reducing them to an ideal outcome.
Founder and CEO of Race Equ(al)ity Project, an organization that helps companies unlock benchmarking data around equity and inclusion practices and their impact
My Negotiation Hack: I think of negotiation as a final qualifying phase and a chance to align with whomever I’ll be working with because negotiating is about so much more than money. When we fully understand what we’re about to get ourselves into, we can avoid surprises and upsets.
My Advice: If they’re not willing to accept or even negotiate, it’s a sign that you’re either entering the wrong partnership, company, or role, or that you’re getting a better understanding of your growth opportunity. The “here’s why not” will be communicated if they want to work with you badly enough.
Founder of Naïra NYC, an online magazine for women of color.
My Negotiation Hack: When I negotiate, I like to present two options. Typically this means two different price options for two scopes of work. Usually, people enter a negotiation wanting to agree on something, so they generally go with one of the options.
My Advice: Present options and don’t get stuck on one idea or one price. Make sure your lower option is where you are comfortable, then add a more premium option. Either way, you will be happy.
Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Scout Lab, a creative agency building purpose-driven brands.
My Negotiation Hack: In most cases, there are a number of items you can negotiate with. Try to understand what the other party wants out of the deal aside from money. This is a good way for everyone to feel heard, seen, and walk away with their needs met.
My Advice: Remember that the goal is to get to a place where the end result works for everyone. This strategy can make negotiating fun and seen as co-creation of value for both parties.
Founder and Creative Director of Hatchers, a think tank with a global network of creators in the arts, technology, and sciences.
My Negotiation Hack: It isn’t just about you and your company’s aims—it’s about working together and creating long-term, meaningful partnerships.
My Advice: Be prepared. Consider all possible outcomes, and know where you can settle and feel a good deal has been done.
Co-Founder and CEO of Caire Beauty, a skincare brand designed specifically for the 40+ woman who are experiencing dramatically changing skin due to hormone decline and menopause.
My Negotiation Hack: Whenever I enter into a negotiation, I put on a smile, make an effort to recall something meaningful from the last time we spoke, and then I dive in. This is how you get to “yes”.
My Advice: Negotiating is a skill set that needs to be studied, practiced, and honed. If you have the opportunity to take an MBA-level negotiations course, do it. Read You Can Negotiate Anything by Herb Cohen.
Founder and CEO of Hannah Nieves, a consulting agency and education platform that helps luxury brands and entrepreneurs elevate their brands.
My Negotiation Hack: Serve first and give value. When negotiating, I’m not thinking about what’s in it for me, but instead what’s in it for them. This mindset shift has helped us increase sales across the board.
My Advice: Know your value and worth and don’t be afraid to charge.
Founder and CEO of Veneka, a capsule wardrobe that features sustainable, ethical, and cruelty-free brands.
My Negotiation Hack: Authenticity has been my most helpful negotiation strategy. Being honest with partners, setting expectations, and being committed to a win-for-all approach has built trust with Veneka’s brands.
My Advice: Always look for win-for-all solutions. When you do this consistently, you develop a positive reputation in your space and gain trust quickly.
Founder of The Solo Female Traveler Network, the largest global community for women who travel solo.
My Negotiation Hack: Taking the time to understand cultural expectations has improved my negotiation strategy tremendously. I’ve landed great rates and created long-time partnerships by being sensitive to other cultures.
My Advice: Help the other side get what they need out of the negotiation too. You’ll find you make stronger partnerships and get more of what you want.
Founder and CEO of Dreami, an end-to-end platform that scales the power of mentorship.
My Negotiation Hack: I have to get really clear on two things before I go into any negotiation: what my dream outcome is and what the absolute bare minimum outcome is. I always make sure to try and understand what those two outcomes are for the other individual as well. This strategy helps me then negotiate an outcome that is somewhere in the middle for both of us.
My Advice: Negotiation is an under-rated superpower. Put aside the limiting belief that negotiation should be avoided. It should be encouraged because it is a sign that you know what you are worth.
Founder of Voice Body Connection, helping people connect to their voice with confidence and express their passion and purpose to the world.
My Negotiation Hack: Walk into the negotiation with an embodied feeling of a positive outcome. That means envisioning what I want to happen and feeling the effects of that vision in my body. It’s confidence that comes from thinking forward and envisioning how I can actually solve someone’s problem.
My Advice: Negotiate with patience. Negotiation is stressful and it can create a sense of urgency in our body. Remember that what you’re negotiating for is likely not something you need immediately. Let your body relax so that the tension you feel doesn’t tell you a false story, making the situation more urgent or creating a desire to “win.”
Founder of On Your Terms Ltd, a platform that helps women executives negotiate with confidence without playing power games.
My Negotiation Hack: Focus on the relationship the negotiation will result in. This has given me the incentive and the information needed to truly understand what both the other party and I want out of our negotiations. It sets us up for a successful collaboration where we both get the best compensation possible.
My Advice: Find the underlying motivations for the negotiation. You each probably have very different reasons for being there and different ideas of what success looks like. Find those motivations and see how they can be best merged for mutual success.
Kelly Ann Collins
Founder and CEO of Vult Lab, a consulting firm that helps social do-gooding brands of all types along their quests for innovation.
My Negotiation Hack: I see most negotiations as win-win situations. The question I usually ask is: How can we make others happy while making our team happy? When I negotiate a deal, I always try to create a plan that is good for everyone.
My Advice: Write it out. On the left put your needs and on the right, put their needs. Despite necessary compromises, the goal is to make sure all parties get what they need to be successful. If for some reason you just can’t seem to make it work, don’t be afraid to walk away. A bad deal isn’t worth it.
Founder of Mind The Ceiling, a podcast featuring candid conversations with disruptive Womxn leaders, breaking career journey myths and giving you the tools to get to the top.
My Negotiation Hack: Clearly identifying your objectives and organization’s strengths before any conversations saves a lot of time and energy during this process. I like to prepare a list of deliverables my team will contribute and partnership KPIs that align with my organization’s goals.
My Advice: By clearly identifying what you want out of a partnership and what you are prepared and able to give, you will elevate your position in the negotiation. You will be able to stand firm against items that you know do not benefit your objectives and lean into areas where you can shine.
CEO of Digital Orchards, a consultancy focused on helping ambitious job seekers pivot successfully into the tech industry.
My Negotiation Hack: Arm yourself with data before any negotiation. Know the questions they will ask and be ready to respond.
My Advice: Be confident in what you are asking for. They wouldn’t have given you an offer if they didn’t think you had skills and value to add. Ask someone knowledgeable to practice modeling out the various ways the conversation could go.
Founder of Good Impact Network, a place for nonprofits and purpose-driven companies to come together and find new ways to partner on world-changing initiatives.
My Negotiation Hack: I remind myself that it is a two-way conversation. I come prepared with research and concrete examples to support my ask, as well as an understanding that both parties need to feel like we’ve landed on a win-win. If their offer doesn’t align with my ask, I will genuinely try to understand where they are coming from, how they came to that conclusion, and what factors were considered.
My Advice: Use silence strategically. When you feel uncomfortable or are faced with a fear of rejection, it is natural to want to overcompensate and get all the points you have been practicing in your head out in the open. Instead, lean into awkward pauses. After you make a statement or ask a question, pause. Give the other person a chance to respond before you react.
All individuals featured in this article are members of Dreamers & Doers, a private collective that amplifies the entrepreneurial pursuits of extraordinary women through thought leadership opportunities, authentic connection, and access. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and subscribe to their monthly The Digest for top entrepreneurial and career resources.
Pictures are courtesy of Nilima Achwal, Shanley Knox, Mandy Bynum, Rana Good, Willow Hill, Heather Falconer, Lorrie King, Hannah Nieves, Shivika Sinha, Amanda Black, Ashima Sharma, Elissa Weinzimmer, Janet Alexandersson, Kelly Ann Collins, Tamara Laine, Liz Arnold, Jessi Greenlee.
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